I woke up this morning on a Caribbean island paradise to the chirp of birds and crash of surf, my heart pounding. Anticipation roused me far earlier than I’d normally awaken on a Sunday, particularly on a first day of vacation, but my thoughts as I lay abed dwelt not on sand, sun, and sea, but on Jon Snow.
Yes, I’m giddy that the day has finally come when fans of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series will finally learn what happens next. (For those who haven’t read or watched the series but have it in a queue somewhere, stop reading. There be nothing but spoilers here.) For five seasons I’ve watched the series, fascinated at how producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have taken us down paths different from those in Martin’s books, yet always bring us to the same keystone moments in the plot. Ned Stark’s death, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, Cersei’s penance, Daenerys’ dragon-borne flight from Meereen—we all knew these things were coming. The thrill is, for season 6 of the show, we mostly don’t know what’s going to happen next because Martin hasn’t yet finished the next book, The Winds of Winter. (There are a few characters whose storylines in the books have progressed past the point where the TV series left them.)
For now, let’s talk Jon Snow. Readers knew Jon would suffer Julius Caesar’s fate, suffering multiple stab wounds delivered by his own men. And despite Martin’s penchant for killing off beloved characters, everyone knows Jon would live to fight another day. The question is how. I’m throwing my speculations into today’s cacophony of theories, and we’ll see who’s right when HBO’s Game of Thrones premieres tonight.
- Melisandre resurrects him. The Red Priests and Priestesses were resurrecting dead people as early as the second book (A Clash of Kings) of A Song and Ice and Fire, and let’s face it, Ned Stark is the only point of view character to stay dead in the books. (I really miss Catelyn Stark’s vengeful undead freedom fighter in the TV series.) So the moment Jon Snow’s blood began staining the grounds of Castle Black in the books, I thought of Melisandre lurking nearby and thought, well, she’s going to pop out and give him the kiss of life.
- The Castle Black men burn Jon’s body, and the fire brings him back. All the dead north of the Wall in Westeros are burned, not buried, to keep them from waking up as white walkers. And although the TV series has been pretty stingy with the hints, it’s pretty clear to readers of the books that Jon is not Ned’s son, but his nephew. Jon is really the product of Lyanna Stark’s (probably consensual) affair with Rhaegar Targaryean. So Jon isn’t a Snow, but a Black (the surname carried by the illegitimate brood of the Targaryeans), and the members of that house aren’t consumed by fire, they thrive in it. The question here is whether Jon will be all the way dead when they burn him, or like Wesley in The Princess Bride, a little bit alive. To hold on to my suspended disbelief, I hope it’s the latter.
- Some combination of #1 and #2. The Red Priesthood’s power is based in fire, so there may be a doubling effect of Melisandre’s mojo and a corpse-burning conflagration.
- Jon comes back as a sentient, independent-minded White Walker–made zombie. There’s precedent for this in the books in the person of a mysterious stranger (probably Benjen Stark, Ned’s brother who went missing in Game of Thrones) who bears many White Walker zombie traits but who helps both Brandon Stark and Samwell Tarley in battles against the North’s undead. Somehow Benjen (or whoever the stranger is) was able to shake off the influence of the Others and operate under his own recognizance.
What’s your theory? I for one, can’t wait to watch tonight, even from paradise.